Kimchi-spiced Air Conditioners to Fight Bird Flu
South Korean firm LG Electronics is poised to start marketing an air conditioner with a filter made using an enzyme from the pungent national dish kimchi that is aimed at protecting against the bird flu virus.
Kimchi, typically made from pickled radish or cabbage packed with garlic, ginger and hot peppers, is renowned for its supposed health benefits —— as well as its powerful odor.
"We developed the filter with the aim of protecting people against bird flu," LG spokeswoman Park Se-won said by telephone, citing four studies from domestic and overseas institutions that she said showed the filter eliminated the deadly H5N1 virus.
Over the years, kimchi has frequently been billed, particularly in Korean culture, as a miracle food with an amazing array of health benefits. During the SARS crisis in 2003, many Koreans believed eating kimchi helped ward off the disease.
Researchers in South Korea have been testing whether an extract from kimchi can be used as an additive to chicken feed to prevent bird flu, although there has been little scientific evidence to support the claim.
LG, which is the world's largest manufacturer of air conditioners, intends to start marketing the air conditioners in China and Southeast Asia soon.
She said appliances would not transmit the unmistakable kimchi smell through rooms.
"Since the filters are made with only the enzyme extracted from kimchi, the smell doesn't follow."
The H5N1 avian flu virus has killed 91 people since late 2003, the majority of them in Asia. Though the virus remains hard for people to catch, scientists say it is steadily mutating and could acquire the ability to pass easily between people, triggering a pandemic.